Following an incredible first season for World Series of Boxing (WSB) new-comers Cuba Domadores that saw them lift the WSB Champion’s trophy by defeating the incredibly strong and determined Azerbaijan Baku Fires on the Azeri’s home soil and wrap up the Season with five of their boxers ranked top of their respective weight categories, we spoke with Mr. Alberto Puig de la Barca, President of the Cuban Boxing Federation and chair of the Cuba Domadores franchise, to gain his impressions on an amazing WSB debut.
Mr Puiga de la Barca, first of all, congratulations on the Champions Title. What does it actually mean for Cuban boxing to win the World Series of Boxing?
We were motivated to take the decision to participate in the World Series of Boxing following a visit from AIBA President Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, who during which provided us with very detailed explanations about the characteristics of the competition, its program, rules and so on. From then we evaluated all the components with every single authority of our Federation and took the decision to join the WSB Season IV. Our team was very enthusiastic from the beginning and this victory has consolidated the recovery of Cuban boxing. Our Boxing School was going through a period of slightly dipping results, but that has been revived by hard work, discipline in training, and scientific research which includes the application of the most outstanding scientific advancements and investigations into our training programs. This became our key to success. I would say that this victory is nothing short of the beginning of a new path for Cuban Boxing.
Were you expecting such a decisive success in your very first season in the competition?
The objective of our performance in the competition as well as our aim was to be in the Finals. However, we analysed each of our rivals and realized that we had a chance to win. What actually happened was that we managed to achieve our goal. We never underestimated or undervalued our rivals. We were aware that in every match our opponents were represented by very well-prepared boxers, including those with much more experience than us in this competition format. But, as our coaches were working hard applying a much personalised approach and our boxers in turn applying a huge desire to win, that is how we got this victory. We implemented a strategy that proved fruitful to field all our key boxers in nearly all of the matches, in order for them to get first-hand experience in this kind of combat and, furthermore, to get them used to fighting over five rounds. As a result, six of our boxers are at the top of their weight category in the WSB rankings. All of this helped us to examine the WSB and we have set our sights on achieving a similar result in Season V.
How did Cuba as a nation react to the Domadores’ success in the Serhedci Olympic Center ring?
The WSB Finals occurred at the same time that Cuba was hosting the Judo Grand Prix with participants from over 100 countries, but almost everybody was waiting for the boxing to start. This is to say that the Cubans enjoyed this tournament a lot. I can almost guarantee that at least 50 % of Cubans were sitting in front of their screens watching every single bout. This contributed a lot to the creation of a very favourable environment for boxing among the Cuban population in general and to help our boxers to identify themselves with this success. Everyone felt a relation to Teófilo Stevenson or Félix Savón, with the boxers of that period and today we are discovering the new Stevensons and Savons, those who belong to boxing in the present day.
And how was it returning to the island?
When we came back, we were greeted at the airport by the first vice-president of the State Council. Just to make it clearer, this is the second most important man in the country’s management scheme. He was meeting the team with the sports minister and other personalities in Cuban sports. The first vice-president values this success highly and expressed his gratitude to the athletes for achieving such results and for the professionalism with which they approached WSB Season IV.
63 triumphs and only 18 losses. What makes the Cuban boxers different fromthe others?
I believe it was due to the strategy used. Our athletes box every single week, no matter if there is or there is no WSB. This is how they improve their results; they improve their performance while fighting every week. This is the reason why our boxers were not affected by fighting every two weeks. We only had to fight at home, here in Havana, in between two fights away in order to maintain our competition rhythm and necessary shape. Many experts say that this exhausts the athletes, but the Cuban School disagrees: it says that you only have to fight and you have to fight every single week. This is a thermometer; we call it a pedagogical text, as it helps us to evaluate how much the workload in training impacts a boxer in the ring.
And how do you find the format of WSB?
This is a type of boxing that is attracts attention, I can at least say that is true in Cuba. The public enjoy this format with five fights across one night, with all the intensity it brings and the main reason why people like it is that it takes into consideration the human aspect. This is why the competition increased from five weight categories to ten. This uniformity was important in the approach to the boxers’ weights within one category, to avoid fights between athletes with a significant weight difference as was the case before. Another very positive aspect of this competition is that different types of gloves are used: 10 oz gloves for all weights up to 64 kgs and 12 oz gloves from 69 kgs onwards. This was implemented with the aim to reduce injuries and protect boxers. Nonetheless, the rules are more or less the same as in any other boxing competition, the human dimensions of the WSB are a reason why this type of competition has been deemed very positive. I believe that this competition has a long-term future and I would really like to see the same rules as we see in WSB at the Olympic Games in 2020.
How are you going to approach the Season V of World Series of Boxing?
Looking forward, I can already tell you that Cuba Domadores will have their first National Boxing Series between 24th and 27th of June. It will be a national competition implementing WSB rules and this very first edition will include the best of the country’s boxers. It is through this competition that we will determine our team of boxers for the WSB Season V.